There is no such thing as hypothetical grace. Grace is real, freely given by God to His people, freely available to us, given generously and without fault. His grace is sufficient for us in every situation we may face (see 2 Cor 12:8-9). The reason some of us doubt this is because we spend a lot of time anxiously fretting about hypothetical scenarios, and there is no grace available for the hypothetical.
A hypothesis is ‘a proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth.’ So often, our anxiety is rooted in the ‘what ifs?‘ of life. We worry about what might happen to us if this scenario occurred or what we would say to X in this particular situation. We fret about what we would do if we lost our jobs or if illness struck us. We worry about how to handle this situation or that one, long before we actually face this situation or that one. And when we are floundering in the realm of hypothetical situations, giving ourselves ulcers and worrying about things beyond our control, we do not find grace.
The reason that anxiety is so dangerous and insidious is that it takes us into places where grace is not present. It leads us into hypothetical situations where we imagine conversations and scenarios which seem incredibly real to us but which are not real. As a result, we become fearful and full of dread and there does not seem to be any antidote to us to those fears because they are not grounded in reality. The Bible tells us that ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 John 4:18) and says ‘when I am afraid, I will trust in You.’ (Ps 56:3) Anxiety is so dangerous because it causes us to focus on imaginative scenarios which are not grounded in reality; God’s grace is there for us in every situation we have to face, but it is given to us like the manna to the Israelites: when we need it. There is no way of stockpiling grace for future need; we cannot hoard grace in the same way we can buy in extra bread and tinned food in cold weather in case the snow keeps us housebound!
When we face the unimaginable, when we have to go through the fire or the flood, when heartache hits like a hurricane or catastrophe crashes into our lives in real situations, God is there (see Is 43:2-7) and His grace is abundantly given to us to help us to cope. I used to fret so much about things I knew would definitely happen one day (eg my parents dying), justifying this to myself because I argued that this was not a hypothetical situation; I was just ‘preparing myself’ for the inevitable. What I failed to realise was I was trying to imagine grace, treating it like this hypothetical commodity. It didn’t work! When my mother ultimately did become ill and died, though, I found grace in abundance to help; I saw God move in so many ways, not least in bringing my father to a saving knowledge of Himself. Grace is real. It’s not just wishful thinking or escapist fantasy; it is solid, dependable and trustworthy (because God is all of those things!) Let’s leave behind anxiety and hypothetical grace and embrace the real thing.